Among the latest in the Jazz Icons® series of DVDs (Naxos/Reelin’ in the Years) is the great organist Jimmy Smith from a French television broadcast of a 1969 performance at the fabled Salle Pleyel “Live in ‘69.” While one might find incredulous Bob Porter’s claim (in his foreword to the accompanying booklet for this CD) that it should be blasphemy to suggest that Smith was not one of the four or five greatest jazz musicians of the past fifty years, there can be no denying the greatness that Smith brought to jazz and really took the organ in jazz to new heights and was one of the jazz greats of the last half century.
He is seen with his trio of guitarist Eddie McFadden, who was on some of Smith’s Blue Note dates, and drummer Charles Crosby, best known for stints with B.B. King and Roland Kirk. The Paris concert opens with a blistering “Sonnymoon For Two,” followed by a lovely “Days of Wine and Roses,” with lovely single note playing by McFadden, as Smith adding some choice voicings before his own solo. Then the trio kicks off on a twenty minute plus rendition of “The Sermon,” with McFadden’s fleet bluesy solo as Smith’s fills, comps and otherwise pushes the guitarist’s playing as the camera catches Smith’s smiles of approval, before Smith launches his solo, with perhaps the most inspired playing from this evening which is saying much. Church organ sounds open up “Alfie,” as the trio takes the tempo down before concluding the first set with an upbeat “Satin Doll,” with Smith sounding like a full big band. The second set opens with a hot swinging rendition of “Organ Grinder’s Swing,” followed by some deep blues jazz organ as he rocks “Got My Mojo Working,” with a very able vocal and see Crosby’s sticks superimposed on Smith’s hands on the B-3. Smith opens “See See Rider” with some moody chords before stating the melody and getting down in the alley with McFadden playing some gritty blues . Another blues follows with a boogaloo groove before “My Romance” changes the mood, followed by a slightly slower rendition of “Satin Doll,” that leads into the credits ending a truly superb video. Ashley Kahn provides a full appreciation of Smith as well as places this performance in its context and the Reelin’ in the Years Production folk have done a terrific job in transferring the original French TV broadcast to digital video and the sound is first-rate. Which is fitting because Smith and his trio is inspired throughout on an evening of great music (nearly 85 minutes).
Pursuant to recent FTC regulations, I disclose that this DVD was received from the firm handling publicity for the Jazz Icons® release.